Thursday, November 5, 2009

Easy Ways to Save Energy This Winter

Here's a nice list from

Easy Ways to Save Energy This Winter
Taking a few simple steps can save hundreds in heating bills

There are plenty of expensive ways to save energy -- installing a new, energy-efficient furnace, for example, or sealing and insulating all duct work -- but the eight tips below were selected because they’re easy and cost next to nothing. Heating and cooling account for over 50 percent of energy costs, so winterizing your home can save you hundreds each year while helping to save the planet, too.

1. Sweat It Out
One of the greenest inventions ever is a warm sweater. Match it with a comfortable pair of sweatpants, and though you won’t set the fashion world on fire, you’ll feel toasty and warm while setting your thermostat down in the 60-something degree range. Reducing your thermostat setting from 75 down to 65 for 8 hours -- like when you’re all tucked into bed -- can lower your heating bill by 10 to 20 percent. And speaking of thermostats, have you looked into the energy savings that come from installing a programmable thermostat?

2. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer anymore. By flipping the little black switch that makes the fan rotate clockwise -- and keeping the fan speed set to low -- you can circulate the warm air that has risen to the ceiling all around the room. This can be a boon to folks with space heaters, wood stoves or other heating devices that don’t produce a lot of air circulation.

3. Snake Charmers
Doors, no matter how well-sealed they may be, always seem to leak a bit of cold air, especially around the base of the door. Since you’re not using that beach towel in winter, roll it up and use it as a “snake” to block the draft coming in from the door’s base. Some folks have even found that a necktie filled with sand or kitty litter works just as well. Or, if you’re feeling flush, buy a decorative new draft snake at your local hardware or home furnishings center.

4. Hearth and Home
Fireplaces may look warm and inviting, but they’re notorious for wasting energy. Remember to always close the damper when the fireplace is not in use -- consider a rubber damper for a tighter seal, or install glass fireplace doors. Chimney balloons also seal up the flue, keeping warm air inside.

5. Blowing Smoke
Put a sheet of paper in a door jamb, then close the door -- if you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you’ve got an air leak. (The same trick works for windows.) Another good way to check for air leaks involves a burning incense stick or other smoking item on a windy day. Hold the item near doors, windows, vents, electrical outlets, attic hatches, baseboards, pipes, dryer vents, utility lines (like TV cables) and other openings. If the smoke blows, you’ve got drafts. You can seal these money-sucking drafts quickly and inexpensively with weather stripping, caulk, electric outlet gaskets, or plastic window film.

6. Furnaces and Filters
Most furnace filters need to be changed monthly during the winter. Fiberglass filters are meant to be thrown away, but since they only trap a fraction of airborne debris, consider replacing them with electronic filters or HEPA filters, which are far more effective and create less waste because they can be cleaned instead of thrown out. And if it’s been a while since your furnace had a professional tune-up, you can easily save enough money through lower energy use to pay for that bit of maintenance.

7. Let the Sun Shine
There’s a truism in sustainable design: Passive solar requires active residents, meaning you have to get a little more involved than just flipping a switch. But even a few simple steps can make a big difference, like opening the drapes when the sun is shining in your windows, then closing the drapes when it’s not. This is an especially good idea when your drapes are heavy or insulated. Energy experts also encourage folks to consider pruning trees or shrubs that may be blocking the sun.

8. Home Energy Audits
Getting a home energy audit is perhaps the best way to start making your home greener and more energy efficient. Call 528-4188.

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